By Lee Sullivan
Random Writers Week 6 Topic: Who would you give a second chance to?
When we selected our random topics and this one was chosen, it was quite serendipitous that it fell on this week. Once I saw the week and the anniversary that also falls during on this week, I asked Gil if he would swap days with me. I knew I would want to write and post my blog on Monday, the six year anniversary of my mom’s second chance. I also knew that I was going to deviate from the topic slightly by talking about a second chance that has already taken place, and not a hypothetical future second chance.
On October 24, 2005, my mom’s house was raided by the police. I was more than 350 miles away when I got the call from my sister that police were at my mom’s, an ambulance had just rolled up and they wouldn’t let my sister near the place. She told me that some deputy told her that my mom had a seizure shortly after the surprise invasion and that she was fine, but the rescue squad had been called as a precaution. My body’s physical reaction to all of this was almost more than I could stand. And I can’t begin to describe the sense of helplessness I felt in those first few hours.
It was no surprise to my sister or me as to why the police chose her house for this late night raid. After my father’s death, my mom had become involved with some less than upstanding characters and drugs became a big part of her life. So big in fact that many times over the years I felt that my mom often chose drugs over me, my sister and my nephew.
Throughout that night there were several more calls with my sister as she learned bits and pieces of what was happening. The hardest part for me to deal with was the mental image of my handcuffed mother being put in the backseat of a police car. I spent the rest of the night planning my early morning trip back to Alabama. That six hour drive was filled with question after question to God about how this could happen to her and to us and what I was supposed to do next.
I drove straight to the county jail and requested to see my mom. They brought her in and sat her on the other side of that thick plate of glass where we were only able to communicate via a telephone handset hanging on the wall. At first she was happy to see me, but that mood didn’t linger for very long. She started making demands that I refused to honor. I asked questions she refused to answer or at least provided answers that were completely opposite of what I needed to hear at the time. The conversation turned really nasty and hateful, and I can assure you there was no love or compassion flowing through that pretend telephone line by the time I hung up that handset. I left her there and went to talk to the sheriff and an attorney. And that’s how the next couple of days went; sheriff, attorney, family, banker, attorney, sheriff, back and forth while we negotiated the release of my mom. She was brought into one of the meetings, complete with an orange jumpsuit and wrist and ankle cuffs. I can assure you this is not a vision I had ever in my wildest imagination expected to see. I’m even more sure it’s not one that my mom expected to find herself in either.
After a few days, an agreement was reached. I went to the jail with some documents that my mom would need to sign. Basically, land she owned would be sold in order to make bail. She would have to sign a power of attorney to me so that I could take care of everything for her. When this was presented to her, she at first refused. To say she was defiant is a massive understatement. More nasty words were spoken but in the end, she signed the documents. I returned with the bail money and she was released to me. Part of the terms of her release was that I would get her out of state. This was not a safety issue but one of concern. Everyone in her life knew that if she stayed in Alabama she may not make the right choices and revert to her illegal and destructive lifestyle. The sheriff, my family, and I all agreed that we had to get her as far away as possible and that’s exactly what I did. During the night, we packed anything that she might need in the coming weeks and left first thing the next morning. My plan was to get her back to Tampa and find a treatment facility so she could get the help she needed. I was so very fortunate to not only find a decent place, but it was also one that accepted her insurance so there was no financial burden on either of us. This place was not only going to treat any addictions she may struggle with, but they had a staff of psychologists who would be working with her on the root causes of the addictions. THIS was the most important thing to me.
Over the next few months, mom worked on herself while I worked on the legal issues we had. My mom had never been the target of that raid and the charges against her were mostly because drugs were found in her home. I spent hours and hours communicating with her attorney and the sheriff’s office, and in the end, one felony charge was dismissed while she was able to complete a pre-trial diversion to have the remaining charges removed from her record. Her criminal record only reflects an arrest but no convictions. We were able to use the remaining money from the land sale to pay her fines and fees and after two years, it was over and completely behind us.
There were so many times I wanted to walk away from her, just like I felt she had done to me for several years. For so long I prayed for her to come back to us and to leave that life behind. There were screaming matches and long periods of silence. People say that someone has to hit rock bottom before they can see what’s happening to them. Well, I can tell you that my mom did just that. She was left homeless and penniless and could have easily found herself in a different set of circumstances.
My mom was blessed with a second chance from the legal system by being allowed to complete a series of steps to have the charges wiped out. The mental health system gave her a second chance by helping her to work through some childhood issues and events that were an underlying source of years of pain. Our family came together to help support my mom with love and prayer or financially when it was desperately needed. We could have easily shut her out and turned our backs on her, and Lord knows she certainly gave us plenty of reasons in the years following my father’s death.
During those years that my mom was spiritually far away from us, I often played out the scenario of walking away from her and never looking back. I thought about all of the hateful and loveless things I would say as I kicked her out of my life. I was so angry and filled with resentment. However, when push came to shove, the easiest choice I have ever made was to give my mom a second chance. Looking back at the past six years, I haven’t regretted it for a minute.